Defense Communications Improvements

Air Force Link: Joint-range extension linking global network

An Electronic Systems Center-developed product, now deployed in operational theaters worldwide, is linking information cells together into a global network to give warfighters broader communication ability.

Joint-Range Extension is a hardware and software system that receives information transmitted on a tactical data link in a particular area of operations and forwards that information to another tactical data link terminal beyond the line of sight.

With JRE in the field, the impact on access to situational awareness data and time-critical targeting is dramatic, said 1st Lt. Jim Horne, JRE program manager for the tactical data links, gateways and network management system program office here.

He said a B-2 Spirit bomber taking off from Missouri can receive real-time data from the battlefield half way around the world. Throughout its approach, the B-2 crew can receive updates on weather information, location of friendly forces and other data that would otherwise be available only after the aircraft arrived in the target area.

“You can update the mission, even change its target, all while it is en route to the theater,” Lieutenant Horne said.


In the future, the ground-based JRE will work in concert with the Roll-on Beyond Line of Sight Enhancement system, or ROBE, which provides tactical data link information to and from KC-135 Stratotankers acting as aerial relays.

ROBE is known as a “kick-down-the-door” system, meaning it can bring this capability into inaccessible areas or terrain that friendly forces do not own, whereas JRE offers the continuity of a permanent ground station, Lieutenant Horne said.

“They complement each other and, in the end, offer much more flexibility,” he said.

JRE systems were used during operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Lieutenant Horne said there are currently 25 systems still supporting that theater, as well as three systems Marine Corps units are using and four Missile Defense Agency experts are using.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.